Classic Bearnaise Sauce

Roast beef with bearnaise sauce and vegetables
Craig van der Lende/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
  • 20 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 15 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings (1 1/2 cups)
Ratings (19)

This classic French sauce is made from a reduction of vinegar and wine mixed with shallots and tarragon and thickened with egg yolks and butter. The light yellow, smooth and creamy sauce is served with meat, fish, eggs and vegetables, and is especially delicious with  whole roasted tenderloin.

Considered a "child" of Hollandaise sauce, one of the five French "mother sauces," Bernaise has been around for quite some time. It is believed that it was invented by the chef Collinet in 1836 at the opening of his restaurant, Le Pavillion Henri IV, near Paris. The name is derived from Bearn, France, where Henry IV of France was born.

The method here is the traditional way to make Bearnaise, by using a double boiler to reduce the liquid and whisk the egg yolks. You may come across recipes calling for a blender, which also works well. Once you feel comfortable making a Bearnaise, you will be able to try your hand at many other French sauces as the techniques are very similar.

What You'll Need

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 4 white peppercorns, crushed
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of cayenne

How to Make It

  1. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat just to melt.
  2. Boil shallots, tarragon and peppercorns in the vinegar and wine in a nonreactive medium-size saucepan over medium heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup. Strain into the top of a double boiler. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Place the pan over the bottom of the double boiler containing simmering water. Make sure that the simmering water is not touching the bottom of the pan with the egg mixture. Whisk constantly. The second that the yolk mixture begins to thicken slightly, remove the pan from above the hot water and continue whisking.
  1. Turn off the heat and add four ice cubes to the bottom of the double boiler to cool the hot water a little. Put the pan of yolks back above the hot water. Whisk in the melted butter, drizzling it in very slowly.
  2. If at any time the sauce looks as if it is about to break, remove the pan and continue whisking to cool it down, or whisk in 1 teaspoon cold water. With constant whisking, whisk in the salt and cayenne. When all the butter is incorporated, taste and add more salt or cayenne as needed.